taravah kim na jivanti
bhastrah kim na svasanty uta
na khadanti na mehanti
kim grame pasavo ’pare
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
Do the trees not live? Do the bellows of the blacksmith not breathe? All around us, do the beasts not eat and discharge semen?
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
The materialistic man of the modern age will argue that life, or part of it, is never meant for discussion of theosophical or theological arguments. Life is meant for the maximum duration of existence for eating, drinking, sexual intercourse, making merry and enjoying life. The modern man wants to live forever by the advancement of material science, and there are many foolish theories for prolonging life to the maximum duration. But the Srimad-Bhagavatam affirms that life is not meant for so-called economic development or advancement of materialistic science for the hedonistic philosophy of eating, mating, drinking and merrymaking. Life is solely meant for tapasya, for purifying existence so that one may enter into eternal life just after the end of the human form of life.
The materialists want to prolong life as much as possible because they have no information of the next life. They want to get the maximum comforts in this present life because they think conclusively that there is no life after death. This ignorance about the eternity of the living being and the change of covering in the material world has played havoc in the structure of modern human society. Consequently there are many problems, multiplied by various plans of modernized man. The plans for solving the problems of society have only aggravated the troubles. Even if it is possible to prolong life more than one hundred years, advancement of human civilization does not necessarily follow. The Bhagavatam says that certain trees live for hundreds and thousands of years. At Vrndavana there is a tamarind tree (the place is known as Imlitala) which is said to have existed since the time of Lord Krsna. In the Calcutta Botanical Garden there is a banyan tree said to be older than five hundred years, and there are many such trees all over the world. Svami Sankaracarya lived only thirty-two years, and Lord Caitanya lived forty-eight years. Does it mean that the prolonged lives of the above-mentioned trees are more important than Sankara or Caitanya? Prolonged life without spiritual value is not very important. One may doubt that trees have life because they do not breathe. But modern scientists like Bose have already proved that there is life in plants, so breathing is no sign of actual life. The Bhagavatam says that the bellows of the blacksmith breathes very soundly, but that does not mean that the bellows has life. The materialist will argue that life in the tree and life in the man cannot be compared because the tree cannot enjoy life by eating palatable dishes or by enjoying sexual intercourse. In reply to this, the Bhagavatam asks whether other animals like the dogs and hogs, living in the same village with human beings, do not eat and enjoy sexual life. The specific utterance of Srimad-Bhagavatam in regard to “other animals” means that persons who are simply engaged in planning a better type of animal life consisting of eating, breathing and mating are also animals in the shape of human beings. A society of such polished animals cannot benefit suffering humanity, for an animal can easily harm another animal but rarely do good.